Interview Series: Marielle Smith, Young Women’s Discovery Society

Transformative.  Dynamic.  Empowering.


NEW!! – The next 2011 Young Women’s Discovery Weekend will be held in the Spring/Summer of 2011


In 1997 a group of 12 women created a one time “higher purpose” project called the Young Women’s Weekend.  Its purpose was to create the space for young women to share in being women together and to find their inner voice.  Marielle Smith was part of that group.

Marielle had an incredible experience facilitating for the first time, leading and listening to the girls talk about their lives, what they believed, what they were passionate about, and what they were sad about.  It was a life-changing event for all involved.  For Marielle, it sparked a desire and passion to continue the event.

Her original vision in 2001 as she was contemplating the creation of a grass-roots Society to continue this event was:   “To inspire young women and add to their journey into womanhood, so that it gives them strength and confidence to live life as who they are, not as who they think they should be.  It will be a weekend that encourages young women to pursue their dreams and to learn that no matter how old they are, who they are makes a difference.  It will be a weekend that is created by different groups of women each time, yet the purpose and vision will be the same. “  

From this, the Young Women’s Discovery Weekend was born – a retreat for young women to discover more of who they really are and to provide them the opportunity to deepen their relationship with their Self.

We had a chance to chat with Marielle, founder of the Young Women’s Discovery Society (YWDS) and the Discovery Weekend to learn more about this wonderful initiative.

Marielle, who is the Discovery Weekend for?

Any young woman, age 13 to 17.  We also have a mandate to create events for ages 18 to 25 as well.  Our only criteria is that they are willing to participate, they have a desire to look inside themselves and that they have fun!

What are some of the biggest issues that you see girls and young women are facing?

Being seen and heard by their parents, peers, teachers and siblings.   One of the biggest issues for girls is finding someone – usually an adult – to listen to them and not fix or change them in the process.  Girls are aching for people to accept them – their emotions, their day-to-day changes, their whims and wonders – without judgment, and with consistent unconditional acceptance.

Simply put, it is mentorship they long for.  Young women and girls are looking for and wanting advocates who will help them with their dreams.  And yes, I mean dreams.  It seems like society is expecting girls to grow up NOW, otherwise you’ll miss the boat.  

But the truth is that young women between the ages of 13 and 17 are still trying to figure out who they are…and it changes daily!!!  They still have dreams and are passionate and innovative enough that if given the opportunity, they will follow their passions and change our world.  There are not enough mentors, coaches, guides or whatever label you want to give it.  Young women need people who will listen, coach and accept them as they are.  

What do participants walk away with?

A connection to their voice, their inner wisdom, and to learn more about who they are at their core.  We coach them to see that outside influences may be something to consider and experiment with, however what is more important is to learn how to keep the judgments at bay.  In the end, their choices are their own.

I believe they also walk away with inspiration to continue with their learning process, and that they make a difference in this world.

What have been some of the “memorable moments” from previously held retreats?

We had an exercise called the Magic Wand.  The wand symbolized a talking stick, that each young woman held as she spoke.  We asked the girls, ‘If you had three wishes, one for yourself, one for another person, and one for the world, what would they be?”

We were amazed and touched by the depth of their wishes.  It was a profoundly emotional experience for the facilitators to hear their answers.  There were wishes that ranged from “I wish my father would recognize me on the street.” to “I would give everyone in the world the ability to feel happiness.”, to “I wish my friend’s parents were back together because she is so sad.”

Another memorable moment, and it occurs at each weekend – is at the end of the event – when the girls don’t want to leave, and we are all laughing, crying or hugging and SO connected to one another.  It is really why I continue to do this – for those connections.


When and where is the Discovery Weekend being held this year?

The upcoming Weekend is October 9 and 10th.  It’s from 11am Saturday till 2pm Sunday.  Our theme is around gratitude and acceptance – so the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend is perfect for that – plus the girls will be done in time for Sunday family celebrations.

This year it’s in Delta, BC at a residential retreat.    We are planning another one in the Spring of 2011 as well.


Get Involved!  How can others support the Discovery Weekend?

Help us spread the word about the Society and the Weekend.  Tell the young women in your life to check our site, or email me, as I’m always happy to talk by phone to parents or girls interested in more details about the weekend or how we can help coach individuals as well.  If you have a desire to volunteer, we always welcome those who wish contribute in many arenas – including marketing, fundraising, volunteering for the Weekend itself, and offering supplies and food too.

 As a not-for-profit Society, monetary donations are always appreciated. We have not yet attained charitable status, so we are raising funds not only to produce the Weekend itself, but also to hire someone to help us with charitable process.  Most importantly, there are always at least 3 to 4 girls who need sponsorship to attend the Weekend, and our intention is to offer this to as many girls as possible.  

To learn more about the Discovery Weekend or to register, please visit or contact Marielle Smith at

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